Airdates: June 28th, September 20, 1962
Written by John Mantley
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Produced by Lloyd Richards
Director of Photography Charles Straumer
Co-starring Bruce Gordon, George Mathews, Salome Gens, Kevin Hagen. Featuring Johnny Seven, Robert J. Wilke, Karl Svenson, K. L. Smith,
“Chicago, 1929; the golden age of crime. You needed a police permit to buy a single shot revolver, but you could buy the most lethal hand weapon ever conceived by man at any hardware or sporting goods store.”
Following the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the government moves to restrict the sale of automatic weapons. Ness descends on the underworld to strip the rival Capone and Moran gangs of their Thompson submachine guns, but Nitti discovers that Jan Tobek (Kevin Hagen), an immigrant master machinist, can make them from raw materials.
Tobek is talked into making machine guns by his cousin, Stanley Zolinsky (Karl Svenson), after Zolinsky approaches Nitti with a semi-automatic weapon that Tobek had cobbled together from an old Army rifle. Zolinsky leads Tobek into believing that the law restricting machine guns will soon be lifted and that the man he sold the gun to wants to enter into competition with the Thompson manufacturer.
But the gun Zolinsky sold to Nitti ultimately turns up in one of Ness’s raids, and federal agents manage to trace it back to Tobek, who is unnerved by the idea of supplying gangsters. Desperate for machine guns to protect his interests, Nitti sends Matt Malloy (George Matthews) and Lefty (Johnny Seven) back to Tobrek where they force him to agree to terms by threatening his pregnant wife (Solome Jens
While a restrained relationship of sorts develops between Malloy and the
Tobeks, a rift develops between Malloy and Lefty over the treatment of their hosts. Malloy prevails, and the guns are soon finished, but Nitti, wishing to cover his tracks, orders Malloy to do away with the Tobeks. Through a tap on the Tobek’s phone, Hobson intercepts the order and alerts Ness. While Malloy pleads with the Tobeks to run for their lives, Hobson bursts in. Following a brief exchange, Malloy is killed and Ness arrives in time to intercept the shipment.
“The seizure of twelve submachine guns did not stop the trail of death, but from the time of the Untouchables’ first raid on the gangland arsenal, the federal government estimated there were never more than eight of these guns in the hands of the entire underworld at any one time.”
Arsenal is an extremely unlikely story, but that does not prevent it from being interesting- There hasn’t been this much gunpowder in a single episode, most of it shot off in the first fifteen minutes, since Ma Barker and Her Boys three years earlier.
Writer John Mantley reaches all the way back to probably the earliest date featured in the series to unearth this item that treats the submachine gun as one of the lead characters. Designed for trench warfare in 1917, but manufactured too late to be useful in World War I, the Thompson submachine gun, variously called Tommy-guns, Chicago typewriters, and the name preferred by writers of the series: The Chopper, became commercially available as early as 1921.
It was freely employed by gangsters for nearly a decade until the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, whereupon the government belatedly awoke to smell the gunpowder.
In a fit of forgivable dramatic license, Mantley moves the discovery of the Thompson’s usefulness in settling underworld disputes all the way back to conveniently back to 1929, the year Eliot Ness formed his squad. Lined up on Nitti’s conference table rests a half dozen Choppers, all nefarious eyes aglow at the new firepower suddenly available. Matt Malloy encourages Nitti to tum the pit bulls loose. After Nitti eloquently advises his men to “use ’em.”
“…The weeks following were the bloodiest in the history of Chicago. The city reeled as the Capone mob struck again and again at Bugs Moran’s north side empire. It was climaxed on the morning of February 14th, 1929, with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. The nation came to its feet in horror. On February 15th, Capone flew straight to Miami and left his Enforcer Frank Nitti, in charge of the organization and on a spot…”
While Winchell carries on, scenes from five previous episodes involving the use of machine guns roar across the screen including a clip filmed for The Masterpiece, where eight gentlemen lay decisive waste to a hotel lobby. A minute or two later, in a new sequence, Nitti and his boys run for cover as two cars pass by, Thompsons ablaze, leaving the mob’s headquarters with no windows and a lot of damaged woodwork.
In case anyone had forgotten, this is what The Untouchables was all about. It was still very much gangsterama supremo. The only variation is the idea that a Polish immigrant could manufacture a dozen, factory-fresh Chicago typewriters from raw materials in his basement – in a couple of weeks with the mob breathing down his neck and abusing his pregnant wife. One of Mantley’s more inventive scripts.